The UAE’s Minister of Education Hussain Ebrahim Al Hammadi has spoken about how, thanks to the country’s innovative approach to education, the use of artificial intelligence (AI), has become part of the UAE education system. Speaking on the sidelines of the ‘First Global Challenge 2019’ event held in in Dubai recently, the Minister said students in grades 11 and 12, in schools following the ministry’s curriculum, “tackle real-life problems with their solutions and innovations” learned through the ‘Creative Design and Innovation’ subject, which teaches AI and related sciences.
His comments came against the backdrop of the Challenge at Festival Arena, where over 1,500 students from 191 countries competed to convince judges that their AI-powered robot would be the most efficient in cleaning up pollutants from the oceans. Al Hamadi noted how the UAE regards AI as an essential subject, the idea and the elements of which are taught from as early as kindergarten age right through the school curriculum. In Design and Technology, as the subject is known, students learn the basics of coding “and start thinking about solving real-life problems from a very early age”.
As the students progress through higher grades, the subject knowledge continues to “strengthen and deepen” until grade eight. In grades 9 and 10, students will be learning the latest programming language – currently Python – and completing applied projects as part of their computer science studies.
The issues that we face, including ocean pollution and climate change, are global issues that need to bring all of society together – not just government, private sector, or academia
The “climax” comes in grades 11 and 12, where student teams use a holistic approach, including AI to solve problems. As Al Hammadi observed, in mid October this year, the UAE launched the world’s first ever graduate level, researched based , AI university, the Mohammad Bin Zayed University of Artifical Intelligence (MBZUAI), putting the country at the forefront of international research and development in such studies.
Abdul Aziz Al Jaziri, Deputy CEO and Chief Operations Officer for the Dubai Future Foundation, organisers of the Challenge in Dubai, said AI will prove indispensable to the UAE’s ambitions. “The leadership of the UAE believe AI and robotics go hand-in-hand – from the first appointment of our Minister of Artificial Intelligence, the UAE Strategy for AI, and even the birth of the Dubai Future Foundation,” Al Jaziri, an Emirati, added. It was also essential, he noted, to involve the youth in the process, including through events such as First Global Challenge. “I think the issues that we face, including ocean pollution and climate change, are global issues that need to bring all of society together – not just government, private sector, or academia.”
Looking around the participants at First Global Challenge commented:”Every youth here, from each of 191 countries participating today, are starting their first journey into robotics and automation. In 20 years, they will be the CEOs, the Chief Technology Officers, the leaders of tomorrow, and their first stop is Dubai,” Al Jaziri predicted.
Members of the UAE team at First Global Challenge said they were proud to represent their country and learn about the latest developments in technology from the event. Shouq Saeed said AI is the “most wanted major” in the UAE, which she plans to study at university after graduating from grade 12. Shaikha Ali, who is in grade 11, said the subject is the “future of my country… I also want to study IT; so robotics will help me in my major”.